staff holding a drummersbox with annuals and vegetable plants

Hardening Off Plants

When we have the benefit of full greenhouse grown plants, we need to make sure that they don’t get too stressed when planted in a different environment. Many times in the spring, this process is much quicker when the temps are cooler. The hardening off process is super simple and easy to do!

Hardening off of plants is the process of strengthening tender seedling and plants grown inside, in greenhouses, or under shade cloth, like our perennials. Hardening off thickens the cuticle of their leaves to avoid access moisture loss. If you are planting potatoes, onions, asparagus, strawberry bare roots, or anything completely under the soil you do not need to take these steps.

Slowly acclimating plants to lower temps, less humidity, and strong winds will reduce stress to your plant. Even if it shows small signs of stress, it’ll be fine!

How to harden off plants grown inside or in greenhouses:

Hardening off takes 1 to 3 weeks depending on the weather and your available time. When there is a very windy day, or quick rise in temps on clear sunny day avoid direct exposure when you are going through the hardening off process.

Each day after bringing seedlings outside, bring back inside and place in a warm spot.

ONE WEEK HARDENING OFF TIMELINE:
*Best to do this when temps are 50F or above. Cold-tolerant plants can handle ~40F temps when starting this process.

1st day: Put your plants outside in a shady spot for 1-2 hours.
2nd day: Place in dappled sun or early morning sun for 1-2 hours.
3rd day: Place in dappled sun or full sun for 2-3 hours.
4th to 7th day: Increase full sun an hour or two each day. If overnight temps are warm enough (~50F) between the 4th-7th day, it’s usually safe to leave them outside in their containers.

Acclimate slower if you see signs of stress which can be quickly wilting in the sun, scorched leaves, and drooping. Movement from the wind is beneficial, but not in excess to cause complete drooping over for long periods.

Make sure you check soil moisture frequently. Water when the soil is partially dry so your plants starts developing roots that reach further down to a water source.

How to harden off perennials grown under sun protection:

When you buy plants grown under shade cloth that have already been exposed to wind and fluctuating temperatures, hardening off is focused on increasing sun exposure. Perennials grown under shade cloth (protection from direct sun), have already been exposed to fluctuating temperatures and wind.

If you see a plant grown under shade protection, you should acclimate them to their preferred sun exposure over a few days especially if the days are sunny and hot. Follow the first 3 steps above but keep the plant outside during the process. During cool spring weather or when the forecast calls for consecutive cloudy days it’s fine to plant in it’s permanent spot.

Transplanting

Transplanting can be a little stressful to plants. When you move plants to their permanent spot choose a cloudy day. Don’t forget to mulch around your plants to help with water retention as the top couple inches can dry out within a day if it’s windy and sunny.

Water your plants at 1″ – 1.5″ a week which is around 10 cups of water per square foot. If there is rain, you can reduce manual watering.

botanical interests flower seed packets

Easy Fall Planting

Fall is the second-best time to plant, with some saying it’s the best! There are flower seeds you can sow after hard, killing frost for earlier blooms next season. Landscape plants, like perennials, trees, shrubs, and evergreens benefit from the less stressful cooler weather, reduced pest and diseases, and focus their energy on root development. Garlic bulbs and fall flower bulbs are also planted in the fall and they are as easy as dig, drop, and done

FALL SOWN SEEDS

PERENNIALS

Sow perennials after a hard frost, below 25 F, that need stratification, the process of seeds being in a cold environment and then breaking dormancy once the weather warms. This ensures that they will not sprout until the following spring.

Mark the spot. Label the area of sown seeds with stakes. If we have a dry winter and less rain in the spring, make sure to water your seeds in the spring to keep soil moist.

We get a shipment of the next years seed from Botanical Interests in late summer, and they provide a list of perennial and biennial varieties that need stratification for higher rate of germination. Sow these after a hard frost to avoid early germination.

  • Blue and Breezy Flax Seeds
  • Forget-Me-Not
  • Hyssop
  • Lavender
  • Russell Lupine Blend
  • Milkweed
  • Penstemon
  • Sundial Lupine Bluebonnet
  • Colorado Blend Yarrow

ANNUALS

You’ll get earlier blooms and reduce time in the late winter/early spring sowing seeds indoors and transplanting seedlings when warm enough. The moisture from melting snow will greatly reduce your need to water in the spring.

Tips for sowing annual seed:

Sow the seeds after a killing freeze but before snow. You may also sow in late winter between snow fall. The snow helps bury seeds and insulates them, helping to retain moisture.

Mix the seed with a bit of sand before sowing. This helps you space your seed more evenly and gives you a better visual of where you sow your seed.

Mark where you planted with labeled garden stakes to avoid damaging emerging flowers.

Annuals to sow in the fall:

  • Bachelor Buttons
  • California Bluebells
  • Bluebonnet
  • Larkspur
  • Poppy

Info Source: Botanical Interests

GARLIC

Garlic is one of the easiest to grow crops. The bulbs are planted in the fall and they are start to emerge early spring. They don’t mind hot summer weather, require little watering if we have consistent rain, and need well-draining soil. We recommend adding compost to your planting area two weeks before planting your garlic. Download our Growing and Storing Guide below or pick up a copy in the store when you get your garlic bulbs.

FALL PLANTED BULBS

Bulbs are really as easy as dig, drop, and done. Each bulb packet will tell you the depth to plant and timing since they have different depth needs. When planting, make sure the soil is well-draining (soil doesn’t stay soggy more than a day) and use Bulb Tone to get their roots off to a healthy start before the ground freezes. Amend your soil with compost or top soil if it’s compacted or not well-draining.

LANDSCAPE PLANTS

Fall is a wonderful time to plant! The heat of the summer is done and the cooler weather is less stressful for the plants during transplanting. The soil also stays moist longer, which requires less frequent water for you! We always recommend mulching around your new landscape plants, leaving a couple inches open around the stems, and wait to do heavy mulching (more than 2 inches), until the ground is completely frozen.

Trees, Shrubs, and Evergreen

Trees, shrubs, and evergreens can be planted up to 6 weeks before ground freeze (average ground freeze is beginning of Dec.). If the trees or shrubs are dormant by the time of planting, you may not need to water if the soil stays slightly moist. Make sure to mulch 2-3 inches around the root zone and wrap your tree saplings Oct. 31st or as soon as possible after that. If you have issues with rabbits or deer around, get a hard plastic mesh tree guard. You’ll be happy you did because if animals chew around the entire tree diameter, it’ll cut off nutrients to the tree. Shrubs and evergreens can also experience animal damage from hungry animals so use a granular or spray animal repellent or fencing.

Deeply water your plants all the way up to ground freeze. Only water when the top 2- 3 inches are dry. It’s usually 5 gallons of water every week to two weeks depending on your soil type, size of the plant, and weather.

Here is an extra note about evergreens. It’s very important evergreens have adequate water before ground freeze or you may experience browning of needles the next spring. Evergreens do better when planted early fall instead of late fall to help them take up moisture before freezing. They slowly lose water from their needles over winter and if they are in an area of high winds and/or bright, all day sun, it dries them out quicker. Read more about evergreen winter care.

Perennials

You can plant perennials up to 6 weeks before ground freeze (average ground freeze is beginning of Dec.) but sooner the better for transplanting success. Just make sure they are watered until freeze and heavily mulched to protect their root systems once the ground is frozen, and no sooner. Smaller potted perennials tend to have shorter root systems before they are established in your soil. When planting use a slow release fertilizer, like Biotone, and keep the deeper soil moist, not soggy. When the top couple inches are dry, it’s safe to water. The plant roots will reach deeper into the soil and create a more robust root system if you water longer and deeper and can reduce watering frequency.

Fall is also a good time to split perennials that have bloomed in the spring or early summer. Iris and peonies, in particular, should be split during the fall months. You can split other perennials but the rule of thumb is if it blooms late summer or fall, split in the spring and vice versa. Don’t transplant perennials while in bloom but if you absolutely need to split them, wait a few weeks after blooming. Dividing perennials (PDF List of perennials and dividing time)

Japanese Beetles on Rose Bush

Minimize Japanese Beetle Damage

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

The Japanese Beetle has iridescent green-bronze wings with six small tufts of white hairs on each side and it’s about the size of your small fingernail.

skeltonized leaf

Leaf eaten by Japanese Beetles and looks like lace.

They are serious pests in both the adult beetle and the larval grub stages. Adult beetles have a plant preferences but may eat other plants in your garden. They are above ground, feeding, mating and laying eggs from mid-June to early August. The white ‘C’ shaped grubs spend most of the rest of the growing season eating the roots under your lawn, resulting in brown patches that increase in size with time. Fortunately, there is only one brood each year.

If you do notice Japanese Beetle damage, healthy, mature trees and shrubs can survive a lot of feedings. Focusing your efforts on immature, weak, or damaged plants, as well as fruits, vegetables and herbs. These plants can tolerate some leaf feeding, but severe damage may affect plant growth and reduce yield.

Grub identifier – other beetle grubs can look like Japanese Beetle grubs.

C-shaped, white to cream-colored grubs with a distinct tan-colored head. Will be 1/8th inch up to an inch long. Japanese beetle grubs look like other white grubs and can be distinguished by the hairs on the end of their body.

japanese beetle grub

Photo courtesy : UMN Extension

Steps to reduce there numbers and minimize damage:

Right when you start seeing Japanese Beetle damage is when you need to start managing their populations. They can be feeding up to 8 weeks. Japanese Beetles are attracted to the scent of other Japanese Beetles and already eaten and damaged leaves.

Cultural Control

Incorporate plants around your favorite landscape and garden plants that repel Japanese beetles such as catnip, chives, garlic, odorless marigold, nasturtium, and white geranium. See the list of plants at the end of this post that Japanese Beetles prefer.

Natural predators to the beetle are birds, spiders, and possibly raccoons, moles, and skunks. The Starling bird is it’s greatest predator. Create a yard that attracts birds another option to keeping some of the population down.

Continually harvest your fruits and vegetables when they are ripe to reduce the feeding from the beetles.

Physical Removal

Browse your garden daily, focusing on the plants they are attracted to or the ones you want to minimize damage. Hold a small bucket of soapy water under the beetle and tap or shake the critter into it. You may have to grab them instead if they are flying away on you. They naturally fall to the ground as a defense mechanism but easily get lost in the soil. Visit your plants as often as possible and inspect carefully. Do not squish them! They are attracted to the scent of their own kind.

Netting

If a tree or shrub is no longer in bloom, you can use a fine mesh barrier to cover the plant. If the plant is blooming and needs to be pollinated, hand-picking is going to be the only option. You don’t want to spray insecticides on your plant at that time.

Beetle Traps

*Warning* Traps are not recommended by us or the UMN Extension, nor do we usually sell them. If you can place traps far away from gardens and landscape plants, this can help populations migrate away from valuable landscape plants but they can fly 10-15 miles to a new place to feed and you may just be attracting them to your area. Do not place the traps near your favorite trees and garden. The USDA recommends putting them at the border of your property and throughout the community.

Biological

“Two natural enemies of Japanese beetles have been released in Minnesota. The fly Istocheta aldrichi lays eggs on adult Japanese beetles in summer, whereas the wasp Tiphia vernalis parasitizes grubs in the spring. Although both natural enemies became established here, neither is very abundant and they have little impact on Japanese beetle populations.” – UMN Extension

To focus on killing the grubs, you have to start treating yards and gardens with grub killers in early July once you start to see the adult beetles. As the grubs get bigger, it is harder to kill them. Killing grubs under the lawn this summer will not affect the number of beetles this year, but next year the number of beetles that emerge from your lawn should be reduced. Killing grubs will reduce damage to your turf but adjacent properties may still have Japanese Beetles so you may not see reduction of adult beetles.

Bt

Bacillus thuringiensis galleriae is another natural way to kill the grubs.  Bt is a naturally occurring soil bacteria that eats Japanese Beetle grubs before they can develop into beetles. It can last up to one to two weeks and it is not harmful to bees.

Milky Spore

Milky Spore is a biological agent that is specific to Japanese Beetle grubs and will not harm other grubs. It also does not harm earthworms, and other insects such as bees and butterflies, pets, humans or other animals. It does need one or more applications annually for three to five years to adequately inoculate your lawn, but once appropriate levels are in place, no further treatment is needed for 10 years.

Nematodes

Nemaknight nematode bottles being held out.Nematode biological insect control is 100% pesticide free, organic, and pet friendly for indoor houseplants as well as gardens. NemaKnights Grubs, Weevil & Borers product has shelf-stable encapsulated S.carpocapsae & S.feltiae nematodes that will attack grubs in the soil outside.

In the spring, if you notice unexplained small patches of dead brown grass, you can dig up part of the area and you may find the culprits. Grubs! These areas can be spot treated with nematodes to control the grub population that will eventually go into their adult phase and hatch out of the ground.

Another option is to treat around plants that you know have been attacked by Japanese Beetles, Weevils, or Borers in late spring/early summer while the adults are active. Early fall, while the grubs are young, is another good time treat young grubs while they are moving around the soil and finding a place deeper in the soil before winter hits.

An important step for success with nematodes is to keep the soil moist for three days as well as apply the outdoor nematodes at night since sun and heat will kill them before working their way into the soil.

Insecticides

It’s the law to read and use insecticide according to the label and apply only as recommended. Make sure that it can be used around the plants you wish to treat and for the insects you want to control.

Systemic

A granular or liquid Systemic Insecticide containing Imidacloprid and dinotefuran, both neonicotinoids, can be applied to lawn one time per year. This seems like an easy way to minimize damage but these are highly toxic to all pollinators. The plant roots absorb the insecticide and will poison the beetles and any insects that munch on the plant. Apply when the plant is not in bloom to prevent pollinator death and 4-5 feet away from flowering plants.

Topical

Topical insecticides, like Eight, which contains Permethrin (high toxicity to fish and bees), can be sprayed on vegetables, fruits, flowers, nuts, lawns, and outside surfaces of buildings. Neem oil is an organic and less toxic insecticide that is an alternative. If you are spraying edible plants, be sure the product is labeled for those plants. Be aware, however, that these are ‘broad-spectrum’ insecticides that affect many kind of insects, including bees and butterflies, so use them cautiously, applying only when and where needed. Keep these insecticides away from ponds and streams as well.

Professional Application

There are insecticides that can only be applied by professionals, like chlorantraniliprole, that are have a lower risk to harm other insects and are longer lasting.

Here is another great resource from the USDA on Japanese Beetles, their life cycle, plants that are not susceptible to damage and ones that are, and much more! USDA Japanese Beetle Handbook (pdf)

Please let us know your questions or if you need help fighting off these buggers! We may not be able to completely eradicate them but keeping their numbers down will help all gardeners!

Image source: Proven Winners

list of plants that are either resistant or vulnerable to japanese beetles

dormant grass

LAWN DORMANCY AND WATER CONSERVATION.

IT’S NOT DEAD. IT’S DORMANT.

It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s an important message. If you see brown turf grass like this *image*, don’t worry. What we should worry about is what drought means for the water supply and our ground water level.

We’re happy to give you good news!
The same as dormancy during the winter months, turf grass goes dormant to survive drought conditions to conserve nutrients and energy. The grass won’t die unless there is a very long period of drought and extreme heat. We understand a lawn can be an important space for play and relaxation, and you don’t want your grass to die. To prevent death with as little water as possible, water turf grass with ½ inch every two weeks. This ½ inch of water will not green up the grass but will keep the crowns alive.

The responsibility of landowners is to conserve water during drought because the same water that is used for watering lawns is the same water all families drink. Turf grass doesn’t need the water, but we certainly do. In addition to the importance of conserving water for human consumption, reduced manual watering will save time and money.

Another issue during drought is the mistiming of watering during heat and drought. The mid-afternoon sun and wind evaporation negate watering efforts. That’s literally pouring money down the drain. When watering turf, water between 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. to avoid water loss.
After a drought period, depending on the variety of grass, it should green up within 3 to 4 weeks if accumulative rain is 1 inch a week.

What about water conservation for gardens?
The answer to that question is about perceived value and can be subjective. Watering your vegetables, fruits, and newly installed landscape plants is often viewed as important as these are valuable resources and adds biodiversity to the area that turf grass does not provide.

Let’s turn the problem into a solution!
If you’d also like to conserve water and still enjoy a garden, increase the square footage of hearty perennial landscape plants or Xeriscaping, a technical name for planting for non-irrigation gardens. For example, native plants have adapted to an area and can handle periods of drought because of their very long tap roots. There are many other plants, once mature, that create a hands-off landscape and will make gardening more affordable!

Use it or lose it.
Harvesting rainwater in rain barrels and cisterns can trap water for later use or create a swale or basin in your yard to direct rainwater to specific areas to make rain the primary irrigation method and reduce manual watering. Depending on the harvesting method, 1000s of gallons of water can be utilized from one rain event!

For ideas on plants to add to your landscape, read Top 8 Tough As Nails Perennials⁠ ( that also are pollinator-friendly! ) and our list of drought-tolerant plants.

tomato

Blight Resistant Tomatoes and Prevention

All fresh tomatoes are great but those of you who are looking for tomatoes that are blight resistant, look no further!

Brief description of blight:

Blight causes sudden yellowing, wilting, spotting, or browning of new leaf growth, fruit, stems, or the whole plant, depending on the severity. It spreads by fungal spores that are carried by wind, water, tools, and insects from infected plants, and then deposited on the plant or dead plant matter on the soil. The disease requires moisture to progress, so when moisture or rain comes in contact with fungal spores, they reproduce. The spores thrive in humidity and the spores can then be transmitted through the wind easily.

Blight can infect many different plants, i.e.  apples, potatoes, and cucumbers, and can be caused by various fungal strains like Alternaria solani, a.k.a. Early Blight, or Phytophthora infestans, a.k.a. Late Blight.

Prevention is key, even for blight resistant tomatoes. Copper fungicide, or Fung-onil can help slow the growth once you see signs of blight or spray on the plant prior (about 2 weeks) before predicted hot and humid weather.

earl blight on tomato leaf

Example of early blight on a tomato leaf. Source: Univ. of MN Extension

Best practices to prevent blight:

  • Healthy plants are less effected by blight. Provide proper water and nutrients. Tomatoes are heavy feeders. Tomato Tone or Plant Tone are good options when you are first planting your tomatoes. If you get a lot of foliage growth, fertilize with less nitrogen and more phosphorus, 5-10-5.
  • Mulch around your plant to prevent soil from splashing up onto the foliage.
  • Water your plant at the base and avoid the foliage. Morning is best so it can dry throughout the day.
  • Provide proper spacing between plants and air flow but using cages.
  • Sanitize all garden tools between plants
  • Clean up any dead infected foliage around the plant and either burn or put into the trash. Do not compost!
  • Prune the lower branches of tomatoes a foot above the ground to help reduce water splashing on the leaves.  Prune further if you see any disease spots on lower leaves.

Don’t let diseases deter you from certain plants since many plants can get blight without proper care, prevention, or crop rotation. If you have been effected by blight, we understand the frustration, so try one of these blight resistant varieties listed below. If we have especially hot and wet weather, we recommend having a fungicide on hand so if you start seeing blight, you can treat a.s.a.p.

BLIGHT RESISTANT TOMATOES

Variety

 Best Used For

Location*

Growth Habit

Beefmaster Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Better Boy Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Big Boy Slicer Container Determinate
Big Daddy Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Heirloom Brandywine Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Brandywine Yellow Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Champion II Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Cherokee Purple Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Early Girl Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Rutgers Slicer Garden Determinate
Supersteak Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Gladiator Slicer/Paste Garden Indeterminate
Juliet Snacking Garden Indeterminate
Sunsugar Snacking Garden Indeterminate
SuperSweet 100 Snacking Garden Indeterminate
Yellow Pear Snacking Garden Indeterminate
Big Beef Salsa Garden Indeterminate
La Roma Paste Container Determinate
San Marzano Canning/Chopped Garden Indeterminate

 

*All listed container plants will also do well in the ground. These tomato plants tend to have a more compact size.

Determinate = Plant grows to a certain size and stops, bearing most of it’s fruit within a one month period. Great for small spaces or containers. Some will grow tall and still need tomato cages.

Find pictures to help identify blight, from University of Minnesota Extension, as well as more management information.

marigolds

Digging Deeper – Late Spring Gardening

“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
–  Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening

This post is about late spring/early summer gardening tips and things to look for that may be showing up soon in your garden.

  1. Fertilizer

    Don’t forget water soluble fertilizers for container plants. Container plants are in a potting soil that do not contain enough nutrients for all season.  Depending on the plant, you will need to add fertilizer to the water or use a slow release fertilize like Osmocote. Follow directions of product and individual plant needs for fertilization. Top dressing containers with compost can also be done to add some nutrients.

  2. Boost for New & Established Plants

    Most in-ground soils will benefit from adding organic material like compost and a starting fertilizer like Biotone Starter before planting or Plant Tone after planting. Top dressing the established perennials/shrubs with compost in the spring will give them an extra boost of nutrients. Plants like butterfly bush, delphinium, and clematis like if you put a mound of compost around their root ball.

  3. Watering

    Newly planted plants in the ground need deep watering so their roots reach down and establish themselves before winter and reduces stress on the plants. Water deeply a couple times a week. If it rains a little (pay attention to how many inches you get with a rain gauge), you can water around your new plants a little more to get water deep into the soil. It helps you conserve water and save time watering. 1″ of water per week is the recommended amount of water. Pay attention to the soil and if it is wet looking, hold off for another day. Best method is to stick your finger in the soil and if it’s dry a couple inches down, it’s time to water.

  4. Weeding

    Remove weeds now while they are small, as they grow quickly. Weeding is easy when soil is damp since it’s easier to pull the whole plant including the roots. Be careful not to walk on soil around your plants to avoid compaction of the soil.

  5. Prevent Fungal Diseases

    With rain and warming weather you need to be proactive about fungal diseases. It’s best to prevent it, instead of treating it because once it starts, you can’t get rid of it completely. Treat your plants that have a higher chance of fungal issues with a fungicide before you see signs of it.  For example, tomatoes usually get blight so best to treat with Bonide Revitalize or Copper Fungicide before it starts. Make sure to water your plants at the base and water in the morning when possible so the water can dry before it cools off at night. Mulch around your plants as well to help prevent fungus from the soil splashing on your plants.

  6. Insect damage is going to start. Keep an eye on your plants for damage to their foliage. It’s important to remember, a little bit of insect damage is not bad and if you see an insect, it doesn’t mean they are bad. We need to move passed the thought that bugs are icky and nuisance. There are very important insects that are good for the garden and actually improve plant health.

    Look for these invasive species instead:
    Japanese Beetles: Metallic looking green/bronze beetles flying or munching on landscape plants. They love roses, hollyhock, cherry trees, plums, grapes, blackberries, and linden trees. They can be found snacking on other plants as well. Read more about them hereIncorporate plants that repel Japanese beetles such as catnip, chives, garlic, nasturtium, and white geranium around your susceptible plants. Jumping Worms: Although we haven’t had any recordings of jumping worms in our area, these can be very detrimental to lawns and gardens. There are sightings of these worms in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area so if you are doing any transplanting of plants from that area, purchases of mulches and soils, or any plant swap around our area. Read more about them here so you can know what to do to avoid them or if you see them, how to alert the U of MN Garden Extension. There are no proven ways to eradicate these worms yet.

Getting rid of insects isn’t always easy and great care should be taken if you choose to spray with insecticides, even ones labeled organic. It’s still an insecticide made to kill insects.

*Quick side note about fungus since we have been having cool springs the last couple years. With cool/wet weather you may encounter anthracnose on your plants. If you are seeing brown spots on trees and shrubs early in the spring it may be this.

all purpose grass seed

Early Spring Yard and Garden Tasks

The desire to start gardening and enjoy outside is hard to suppress. Each spring will bring us new weather patterns and it’s best to take Nature’s cues when it comes to accomplishing these yard and garden tasks

YARD AND GARDEN TASKS:

1. Wait to clean up dead perennial matter until temps are consistently around 55F-60F. Beneficial insects will be in their dormant state in leaf litter and dead perennial matter. You should wait to clean up dead plant material as late as possible into the spring.

You can top dress with compost as well as mulch around the root zone of your plants when you see perennials emerging.

2. Clean and sanitize your outdoor containers, bird baths, bird feeders, and garden tools. Check out the new garden decor and tools in store!

3. Prune off dead/damaged branches on shrubs and trees. Late winter/early spring is the best time to prune trees, before their buds are formed. Refer to our pruning guide in regards to shrubs and trees.

4. Clean debris from your vegetable garden and top dress the soil with compost at least two weeks before you plant. Avoid compaction of the soil by using designated walkways. Compaction of the soil will reduce the level of oxygen available for plant roots. Lightly till in compost if you notice your soil is compacted.

5. Early to Mid-April, depending on weather and ground temperature, is the best time to put down new grass seed or ground covers like clover. Wait to scatter seed until day temps are 60F+ consistently before spreading seed. Most seeds, including grass won’t germinate until the soil is 55F+. We carry bulk or bagged grass seed from Ramy Seed in Mankato. If you want to forego a conventional grass lawn, get a  wildflower seed mix and scatter the seed in mid to late April.

Please note, if you want to do a weed killer in the same area you want new grass, you will have to wait to over-seed grass until summer or fall. If seeding is more important – forgo the crabgrass or weed killer and just use a lawn food

6. Apply crabgrass killer and weed pre-emergents just before we have consistent 60F days. Most products last 6-8 weeks and timing the application with the weather is important or you may need to reapply. Weeds  germinate when soil is 55F. There are many turf products, likes Maxlawn Weed and Feed, that contain fertilizer as well as weed killers so you can accomplish both tasks if you have weeds throughout your lawn. Our staff can help you decide what is best depending on what you want to accomplish!

If you don’t mind weeds, use a lawn fertilizer around the time you have to mow for the first time.

PLANT THESE in your GARDEN EARLY TO MID-SPRING:

Summer blooming bulbs, potatoes, asparagus, strawberries, cold vegetable crops, and onion plants.

Plant summer bulbs when the soil has warmed to above 40F and the soil isn’t soggy. Usually early April through mid May depending on the spring weather. The soil should be rich and well-draining to avoid bulb rot if cooler temps come back.

Find growing instructions in the store!

Cool Season Hardy and Semi-Hardy Vegetables:

list of cold season hardy and semi-hardy veggie crops

wrapping tree wrap around sapling in late fall

Winterizing new evergreens and trees

Wrap new trees (saplings)

We recommend new trees are wrapped with a protective tree wrap or vinyl guards end of October to help protect against sun scald and frost crack. If you tree does experience winter damage it’s not necessarily terminal for the tree but can increase chances of disease and insect damage. The wrap can also help deter animal damage during winter.

Wrap up to the first tier of branches coming out of the truck and slightly overlap the wrap as you go up the tree.

Remove the wrap in spring after freezing temps have passed because you don’t want to trap moisture and heat when it warms up. There are wraps that state they can be used all year-round so read packages before keeping on all year. This should be continued every year until the bark begins to thicken and roughen.

The following trees have higher chances of winter damage if not wrapped due to their thin bark when saplings.

Apple, Beech, Crabapple, Elm, Horse Chestnut, Linden, Oak, Walnut, and Willow.

Guard your evergreens against the harsh winter weather (and animal damage!)

We love the addition of evergreens to almost any yard. The year-round texture, color and refuge for wildlife is something you can’t replicate with other trees. Plus they look great covered in fresh snow and holiday lights.

The same winter weather and snow that contrasts nicely with our beautiful green and picturesque evergreens can actually do damage to them. Here are tips to protect yours, designed to guard against the drying and damaging affects of winter.

The last two tips are included for those of you who may have experienced damage in previous years and/or added new evergreens.

1. Water thoroughly until freeze.

Keep your evergreens well hydrated throughout the year. Continue to provide ample moisture through October and possibly part of November until the ground freezes. Read our Guide to Watering if you need a refresher.

2. Mulch

Surround evergreens with a fresh layer of insulating mulch to regulate the soil temperature and seal in moisture. Once the ground freezes, the roots cannot replace lost water, and sun and wind can deplete it from the foliage, a double whammy for your evergreens.

3. Spray with Wilt Stop®

Evergreen leaves have more surface from which to lose water, so they are more susceptible to winter desiccation (drying). This can be prevented with an anti-desiccant spray like Wilt Stop that helps to seal in moisture and protect your broad and narrow-leafed evergreens.

Wilt Stop is it is natural and non-toxic— made from the resin of pine trees—and it forms a soft, clear and flexible barrier over foliage to prevent your evergreen from drying out.

4. Create a barrier against wind with burlap ( this can also help with animal damage ).

If the evergreens are planted on the south or southwest side of your home, they may be getting the worst of the winter winds and scalding winter sun, a stressful combination for our evergreens.

Post sturdy metal or wooden stakes at an angle around the evergreen trees, then wrap with burlap, making sure to keep the top open for light and air flow. The natural, porous fiber of the burlap or similar fabric allows some wind to pass through, making it resilient enough to withstand the wind, but minimizing the strongest, coldest gusts from reaching your evergreen. This can also minimize the accumulation of large amounts of drifting, damaging snow. When the snow starts to accumulate in the winter it helps keep rabbits from being up to sneak under and munch on your plant when they are wanting to start eating anything they can find. Use of animal repellents is also recommended if you have a large number of animals around your home.

5. Buddy-tie your evergreen branches.

This is the same philosophy that is used when we buddy-tape a weaker, sprained or broken finger to a stronger one for support.

Many evergreens and other trees have multiple leaders, or two dominant branches. On their own, they can be more susceptible to breakage from heavy snow and ice at the point just above the crotch of the tree or the area where the trunk branches into two.

By joining the two leaders approximately halfway up from the weak crotch area, you give them stability and strength. You can use strips of strong cloth (the rest of your burlap) or nylon stockings for the bind. Remove them before spring growth to allow movement and prevent girdling.

shrub lot display in july

TOP 5 TIPS for Summer-Planted Landscape Plants

Spring and fall planting has the least amount stressors for new trees, shrubs and perennials IF we have mild weather, and rain. Planting in the summer, with the peak sun, searing heat, and drying winds are just added stressors to new plants but it doesn’t mean you can’t plant. With a few extra precautions you can make it work and your plants will do fine!

1.MOST IMPORTANT! – WATERING

Proper watering is vital to the plants survival. Proper watering doesn’t mean watering everyday. At least 1″ of water a week spring through fall season is the recommended amount. Frequency will vary in the type of soil you have. In clay soils, infrequent yet thorough deep watering is needed. This is because the water doesn’t percolate quickly through the soil. However in a sandy soil, water percolates easily. This requires lower volume and more frequent watering.

A slow stream of hose water for 5 min-10 min should give you a deep thorough watering of trees and shrubs. We like to use one 5 gallon bucket every week to two weeks, with 1/8th holes drilled in to slowly drip.

Perennials should be watered every 3-7 days depending on soil type and weather.

Check the soil regularly by pushing your finger a couple inches into the soil before you water, EACH TIME. You can also insert a screwdriver into the soil and if it’s easily penetrated, the soil is moist. If the soil is moist, wait to water. Remember, even drought tolerant plants need a couple of years to fully mature and need deep thorough watering. Searing heat and windy days can require you to water more often as well since your plants are losing more moisture.

2. PROPER PLANTING TECHNIQUE

Make sure to follow our planting guide (See image below) on the back of our Winter Hardiness Warranty Slip that comes with all trees and shrubs. Mix in compost and slow release fertilizer with beneficial fungi, bacteria, and nutrients, like Bio-Tone, into your native soil to help get your newly planted shrubs, trees, and perennials off to a strong start!
shrub and tree planting-guide

3. MULCHING

Use 2-3 inches of mulch around your plants to help retain water and keep soil cool during hot and dry days. Mulch around the root zone and keep the mulch 2-3 inches away from the stem of the plant.

4.READ THE LEAVES

Summer-planted plants may wilt regularly if you are under-watering or from heat stress. More water sensitive plants, especially new perennials with shallow root systems, will tell you if they need more water. If there is slight wilting during the day yet they have moist soil, they may be succumbing to heat/light stress if no other signs of pests or disease are present. If they are still wilting after the sun is going down, they are most likely under-watered if the soil is dry or the roots have already been stressed from over-watering. The best method to quickly learn how much water you plant needs is to check it regularly. You’re plant will start establishing it’s roots and watering frequency may decrease.

5. PLANTING TIME

Planting on a cloudy day is also less stressful for them. If the cloudy day is followed by a day or two of rain, all the better! You can also plant in the evening, deeply water, and that give it half a day before it gets blasted with the summer sun.

We also made a video of planting a shrub for how to properly plant a landscape plant.

During extreme heat, wind, and sun weather, you can watch this next video for some tips.

apricot orange colored blooms on the Zonta Minnesota Mum

Perennial Mums that Survive MN Winter

Bright red, pink, yellow, white, purple, golden orange, copper, cream…you will find a large variety of perennial Mum flower colors! Thanks to the University of Minnesota’s Mum breeding program beginning in the 1920’s we now have perennial Mums that survive MN winters!

Here’s a bit of history for you! The cushion habitat mum was the first patent of the U of M in 1977.  “Plants are dome-shaped, with flowers almost completely covering the outside surfaces of each plant. Previous mums bloomed only at the top of long stems (upright habit). Within a decade, the cushion type became the dominant chrysanthemum plant habit worldwide.”- U of M Chrysanthemum breeding program.

There is continued development of a different growth habitat mum like the wave hardy mum since right now most are the cushion or upright habitat. Hopefully we see more of those soon!

These perennial mums survive MN winters but they are known to be finicky. Here are some steps to take care of your perennial Mum so it comes up year-after-year.

Before Winter Care:

  1. Plant your Mums in well-draining soil. If the soil doesn’t drain well and results in standing water that freezes, the ice around the root system can kill a plant.
  2. Find a sheltered location protected from high winds.
  3. “Tests show that Mums survive the winter better when the above-ground dead plant stems are not removed in the fall. This is also a beneficial technique to use with other herbaceous perennials.” -U of M 
  4. Cover your Mums with 4″ of leaves or mulch to give them good insulation AFTER THE GROUND HAS FROZEN and there isn’t extreme fluctuations of temperature.

Spring Time Care:

  1. Take off the mulch over your Mum as soon as the ground starts to thaw.
  2. Snap off or trim off the dead growth. Be careful not to pull out or cut new growth.
  3. This is the time also that you can divide your mum, if you need. The outer new growth is the most vigorous and you may see little stray growths that are perfect for splitting. Dig down and snip off the new growth, leaving as much of new roots on as you can on the cutting and then pot them up in a clean pot and soil in a warm sunny windowsill for a few weeks and be sure to water but not too much. Do the finger test of sticking you finger down into the dirt on the side at least two inches to see if the soil is dry. Then you can plant them into the ground after a few weeks.

Sources:

https://mnhardy.umn.edu/varieties/flowers/chrysanthemums
http://www.hortmag.com/headline/dividing-hardy-mums

Vacation needed! Tips to help your outdoor plants while you’re away.

We all need to get away once and awhile! Some plants may do just fine with a longer vacation away like succulents and established drought tolerant plants. There are others, especially plants in containers, that need more attention before you leave and while you are away.

 

Here are a few ideas if you will be away from your plant family.

1. Move your full sun annuals to a more shady area if you aren’t gone more than a few days. Avoid deep shade.

2. Water your containers deeply a couple days before you head out to make sure there are no dry areas in the soil.

3. Add an extra layer of mulch on the soil to help trap the moisture. Be sure to take off this extra layer when you get back to avoid any issues with the soil holding moisture too long when you get back to watering regularly.

4. Use Soil Moist- it’s little granules that are worked into the soil that hold moisture, like a sponge, and will release water once the soil starts drying. This may help reduce watering throughout the season and help if you are only gone for a week or less *. A little goes a long way with Soil Moist and lasts a couple seasons! This product is usually used in containers but can also be used in the ground around plants that need more consistent moisture.

5. Use dispensers that screw onto recycled plastic bottles to release water into the soil as needed. Experiment with them first to see how long the water may last. There are other products out there but we like these dispensers since we can reuse bottles and they don’t take up much space when not being used.

6. If you frequently forget to water or spend a lot of time away from home, invest in self-watering pots like the Aquapots by Proven Winners. In addition to reducing the amount of water and times you need to water, they will help extend soil moisture if you need be away for a few days!

 

*Remember that due to weather it can be difficult to keep your plants watered despite some of these tricks.  If you are really worried, hopefully a neighbor or friend can come water your plants while you are away if there is no rain. Check out local services or possibly Craigslist for people who can help water your plants while you are away. Maybe a local lawn mower can help out as well with a quick lesson on proper watering.

bloomstruck hydrangea

Acidic Soil Loving Plants

Water, Sun, and Soil (Nutrients). These are plants three basic needs.

Plants need nutrients and a relationship with elements in the soil can determine the health of plants. Soil pH is important to the uptake of nutrients and related to some common issues that may arise. For example, you may add fertilizer to your garden but still have little effect on your plants if for some reason your soil pH is off.

The texture of the soil is an additional variable (loamy, silty, sandy, or clay) and another topic all together. There is a method at the bottom of the post that will also improve soil texture/aeration.

Now, we will go over acidic soil ranges, what plants grow best in acidic soil, and what you can do to improve your soil’s pH.

What is acidic soil?

The range of pH is from 0-14. Acidic soil is considered anything below 7.

Acidity ranges:
Slight  6.0
Strong  5.5
Very Strong 5.0
Extremely 4.5

Most plants like to grow within the 6-7.5 pH range for optimal nutrient uptake. In Southern MN, you may notice a lot of clay soil with lime, which tends to be more alkaline, 7 or above. Water coming from hoses in this area are usually more basic (increases alkalinity) as well.

Other factors that affect soil acidity are rainfall, nitrogen fertilizers, plants like pines, and subsoil acidity. The best way to know your soil acidity level is a quick home test. We have soil pH tests plus soil nutrient tests. If your plants are thriving than you probably wouldn’t need to test it unless you are curious.

Plants that enjoy acidic soil:

Plants that enjoy slight acidity, 6.0-7.0 range:
Most plants! Each plant has a pH range it can tolerate and many plants can handle 6.0.

Plants that tolerate strong acidity, 5.5:
Trees and shrubs –  Raspberry 5.5-7.0, Pears 5.5-7.0, Peaches 5.5-7.0
Vegetable and Fruits- Potato 5.5, Squash 5.5, Garlic 5.5-8.0, Carrot 5.5-7.0, Sweet Peppers 5.5-7.0, Tomatoes 5.5-7.5, Cauliflower 5.5-7.5, Cucumber, 5.5-7.0, Pumpkin 5.5-7.0, Eggplant 5.5-6.5, Sweet Potatoes 5.2-6.0, Rhubarb 5.5-7.0
Flowers – Begonia 5.5-7.0, Black-Eyed Susan 5.5-7.0, Clematis 5.5-7.0, Marigold 5.5-7.5, Nasturtium 5.5-7.5, Pansy 5.5-6.5, Snapdragon 5.5-7.0, Zinnia 5.5-7.0, Fox Gloves 5.5-6.5, Cyclamen 5.5-6.5

Plants that tolerate very strong acidity, 5.0:
Trees and shrubs – Spruce 5.0-6.0, Juniper 5.0-6.0, Blackberry 5.0-6.0, Apple, 5.0-6.5, Serviceberry 5.0-6.0, Fothergilla 5.0-6.0, Magnolia 5.0-6.0
Fruits – Strawberries 5.5-6.5, Grapes 5.5-7.0
Flowers – Coneflower-Purple 5.0-7.5, Cosmos 5.0-8.0, Gladiolus 5.0-7.0, Lupine 5.0-6.5

Plants that tolerate extremely strong acidity, 4.5:
Trees and shrubs – Azalea 4.5-6, Blueberry 4.5-6, Hydrangea-Blue flowered 4.0-5.0, White Pine 4.5-6.0, Rhododendron 4.5-6
Flowers – Lily-of-the-Valley 4.5-6.0

As you may have noticed, plants have a range of pH that they will grow in and thrive. Those plants that have very strong and an extremely strong acidic soil needs, may need additional amendments to keep soil pH down. If you are noticing any issues like yellowing leaves, no fruit production, growth seems stunted, and not blooming, checking the pH is recommended first before using fertilizers.

What can you do to change soil pH?

The best way to improve soil pH is through addition of amendments and adding organic material. To increase acidity, add sulfur, and to decrease acidity, add lime. With both of these amendments, you will have to do it in stages as to not shock the plant. Read instructions on any product you use since each may differ.

These are our favorite supplements to use to adjust the soil pH and will not shock the plants if used as directed:
Epsoma Soil Acidifer – Organic, Safe, long-lasting, and won’t burn the plants if used as directed. Repeat in 60 day intervals if needed.
Epsoma Berry Tone for Berries – Organic, Good if you need to slightly increase acidity, Use early and late spring, Use on blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, Will help produce bigger plants and more berries.

Ways to adjust soil pH by adding organic material:
Add compost, manure, and peat moss to your garden beds. If you add compost and manure your soil, it may become more neutral so the addition of peat moss, which is acidic (3.0-4.5) can help temporarily adjust acidity. This is best to do in the fall since it takes more time to adjust the soil pH using this method but feel free to feed plants with top dressing of compost/manure during the growing season which is another great way to improve the soil’s aeration.

Modifying your soil’s pH will take some time. Depending on the type of soil you are working with, the addition of supplements and organic material may be needed year-after-year.

If you test your soil and notice you have troubles with keeping your soil more acidic, choose plants that will tolerate more neutral or alkaline soils. There are plenty out there!

moon in the sky with tree silouettes

Gardening by the Moon – A Fascinating Lore

We have all heard of the moon effecting the water tides but have your heard of it effecting soil moisture?

From The Farmers Almanac, gardening by the moon “is an age-old practice of completing chores around the farm according the the moon phases and that the moon governs moisture.”

Growing in Popularity

It is growing in popularity for various reasons but prominently because people are trying to find ways to stay in touch with nature. If people pay attention to the seasons, weather conditions, and natural patterns they can start to feel more in touch with their environment and surroundings.

There are certain garden centers that plant solely on moon phases and swear by it. We have yet to find current research projects that proves it to be more effective. However, we can find anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness online. To be in touch with your environment and weather conditions is an important part of your gardening success. Even if it is gardening by the moon’s phases or not. On this website , they list some sources of research, anecdotal accounts, and their findings for gardening by the moons phases.

General Rules

The over arching rule is that people plant specific crops based on the phase of the moon. It is also believed there are better times to prune, build fences, wean animals, fish, etc. What do they mean by better? Everything from better yields, increased growth, stronger fences, juicier meat, and even to more flavorful produce.

The general rules, from The Farmers Almanac website, is “the new and first-quarter phases, known as the light of the Moon, are considered good for planting above-ground crops, putting down sod, grafting trees, and transplanting.

From full Moon through the last quarter, or the dark of the Moon, is the best time for killing weeds, thinning, pruning, mowing, cutting timber, and planting below-ground crops.”

Working on your garden and land by the moon does seem like a good way to keep track of when to do certain tasks. If it produces better yields and healthier plants that would be an amazing bonus!

Conditions Are Important

If you choose to plant by the moon please remember that other planting conditions still need to be paid attention to.

  •  Soil temperature
  •  Present and forecasted weather conditions
  •  Moisture levels
  •  Soil type
  •  Specific planting needs of the crops you want to grow

 

If you have any questions about when to plant something please contact us or stop in and chat about your gardening goals!

DO YOU PLANT BY THE MOON? Email us or message us on our Drummers Facebook page and let us know!

Websites where you can find more information about gardening by the moon:
The Farmers Alamanac
Read about some moon phase gardening research here.

praying mantis looking at camera

Beneficial Bugs

We may view bugs as a nuisance because they are eating our plants or intruding in and around our homes. The Spotted Wing Drosophila or Japanese Beetle are two examples of pesky bugs that can cause damage to our beloved plants. I could go on and on about bugs that cause us major gardening headaches and heartache at times.

Many of us know about the beneficial pollinators like bees or the pest killing dragonflies, butterflies, and spiders but let’s look at some bugs you may not have heard that can help us in our fight against nasty pests. These bugs aren’t usually a quick fix nor are they a complete eradication pest control, which in most cases, isn’t needed. If we look at the positive of beneficial bugs, we can help balance the ecosystem without using pesticides or comprising your crop with harmful chemicals.

Diversity of plants in your yard is the most important aspect of supporting all beneficial insect life so here is a limited list of plants that are proven to attract them.

Plants that attract beneficial insects:

Sunflower: Ladybugs, Syrphid Flies, Parasitic Wasps, Spined Soldier Bugs, Minute Pirate Bugs

Yarrow: Honey bees, Ladybugs, Hover Flies, Parasitic Wasps, Lacewing

Dill: Ladybugs, Lacewing, Hover Flies, Parasitic Wasps

Clover: Tachinid Flies, Parasitic Wasps, , Ground Beetles, Big-Eyed Bugs, Hover Flies, Ladybugs, Honey Bees

Fennel: Parasitic Wasps, Hover Flies, Tachinid Flies, Damsel Bugs, Ladybugs, Lacewing, Big-Eyed Bugs

Cosmos: Lacewing, Hover Flies, Parasitic Wasps, Big-Eyed Bugs

Black-eyed Susan: Parasitic Wasps, Honey Bees, Hover Flies

Here are a couple beneficial bugs you can add to help mitigate aphid, mosquitoes, mites, and many other soft-bodied insect.

Praying Mantis

praying mantis looking at camera

Praying mantis

The Praying mantis would be an insect you would need to introduce and is a predator of many insects, mites, and eggs. They have a really healthy appetite so be careful if you use other beneficial insects or worried about native bugs being eaten such as the Ladybug which we will get to in a moment. When they are young, the praying mantis will eat mosquitoes, aphids, leafhoppers, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects. As adults, they will eat beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and other pests in your garden! If you are worried about introducing an insect not native to Minnesota, you need not worry. The praying mantis will not survive the winter here. There are multiple sites that you can buy the praying mantis egg cases with instructions on how many you would need and the best time to use them.

Ladybug A.k.a Lady Beetles

Ladybugs swarming

Ladybugs

The native ladybugs are great predators to aphids and other soft bodied pests, mites, and eggs. You may not see native Ladybug anymore compared to the Asian Lady Beetle that was introduced in the South. Their purpose was to eat aphids from crops but made their way up North. You might not be as familiar with their larva either so check out the pictures here. You can buy Ladybugs to introduce to your garden but you have to make sure they stay there to eat and hopefully lay eggs! Many sites state to put them in the garden at night since they won’t fly at night and water around the area well!

deer scaping on tree and damaging bark

Protecting Plants from Animal Damage

Animals around the yard are a wonderful sight during the winter for entertainment but we also need to make sure they aren’t damaging our plants! Let’s get into protecting plants from animal damage and how to protect your landscape investments.

When the snowfall is low, it takes less energy for animals to migrate. They may not need to roam into our yards for food if food is abundant in more secluded areas. When it’s easy to do so, without deep snow, take a stroll on one of these warm days to check your trees, shrubs, and even vines, like clematis, for damage. When animals get hungry, they won’t spare much.

What does animal damage look like?

Deer damage looks jagged and pieces of bark and foliage ripped off. Rabbit damage is more clean cut. The damage may even wrap around the entire branch which will kill that branch. If you are seeing damage or if you want to protect your beloved plants, we have various repellents and physical barriers to help keep them away.

rabbit clean-cut chew marks on a tree trunk

Rabbit chew marks on a tree.

Reminder, if we start getting a lot of snow fall, reapply repellents according to product directions. The cute, light-weight rabbits can’t reach the top of your tree guards without snow but with piles of snow around your trees and shrubs, it will make it possible! Make sure they can’t get above the guards and repellents.

What works best to prevent plant animal damage?

Various sprays, pellets, and physical barriers should be used to keep them away. Unfortunately, if they are hungry enough they will eat despite any offending smells that typically keeps them away. That’s why the use of physical barriers may be the best method in extreme and harsh winters.

Animals can also get used to certain smells so using at least two different kinds of smells or repellents works better. Repellents will also need to be reapplied and frequency depends on the product and weather.

If it seems like deer and rabbits have already made your yard into a safe spot,  you may have to start using repellent or fencing on the perimeters of your yard to start teaching them it isn’t a good spot to feed and make a home!